Hoffenheim host Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in a tie which could decide the European fates of both sides as they look to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
In a Bundesliga match which promises fireworks, the hosts have the perfect opportunity to leapfrog Dortmund into third place, a finish which would be the highest in the club’s history.
However, Peter Stöger’s men will be hoping to bounce back strongly after their disappointing defeat to Mainz last week and tighten their grip on the coveted third place.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s crunch match:
Dortmund currently boast a ten game unbeaten streak against their prospective opponents and they were able to secure all three points at the Signul Iduna Park earlier this season.
However, despite a last minute winner from American starlet Christian Pulisic, the match could not contend with the most dramatic game between the two clubs in recent history which took place in the 2012/13 season.
Hoffenheim found themselves languishing in the relegation zone prior to the match knowing that nothing less than a win away to Dortmund would secure their safety. Despite going down to a goal from BVB’s ex-talisman Robert Lewandowski, Hoffenheim upset the odds and came from behind to secure all three points; courtesy of two penalties.
First, Mats Hummels brought down Kevin Volland in the 77th minute, allowing Sejad Salihovic to stroke home from nine yards. The drama of this penalty paled in comparison to the second which saw Dortmund ‘keeper Roman Weidenfeller earn himself a red card after bringing Sven Schipplock down in the penalty area.
Dortmund had made all three substitutions and winger Kevin Großgreutz was forced to step between the sticks. Unsurprisingly, Salihovic scored again and Hoffenheim were able to secure a relegation play-off against Kaiserslautern.
Kevin Akpoguma vs. Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho has certainly got tongues wagging back in England after the youngster has put in some stellar performances on the left flank for BVB. His individual trickery and decent final ball has resulted in one goal and four assists in his first 11 league matches.
Sancho’s brilliance has rightfully earned him a spot in the starting lineup for the previous five matches and he could be crucial if Dortmund are to tighten their grip on third place in the league.
As Hoffenheim tend to play with a back three, he will be coming up against German youngster Kevin Akpoguma, a centre back who operates on the right side of Hoffenheim’s back line.
Akpoguma in particular will be seeing a lot of Sancho but the 23-year-old has previously proven that he is more than capable of playing at the highest level. He has proven to be a capable defender who rarely makes mistake and will prove to be a stern test for Sancho as the Englishman looks to improve his already respectable reputation in the Bundesliga.
For Hoffenheim, the big miss will be in-form Serge Gnabry (groin), who has bagged seven goals in his previous eight appearances. In addition to this, Julian Nagelsmann’s men also lost winger Lukas Rupp through a knee injury during last weekend’s defeat and he is now expected to be out of action until December.
Dortmund have their own troubles as they will travelling to Hoffenheim without their usual centre-back pairing. Sokratis is out through suspension and Toprak remains on the sidelines whilst he recovers from a calf injury.
BVB are also missing their loanee Michy Batshuayi who suffered an ankle injury in their defeat to bitter rivals Schalke last month.
Potential Hoffenheim starting lineup: Baumann, Akpoguma, Vogt, Hübner, Kaderabek, Grillitsch, Nordtveit, Amiri, Schulz, Kramaric, Uth.
Potential Dortmund starting lineup: Bürki, Toljan, Piszczek, Akanji, Schmelzer, Götze, Weigl, Reus, Schürrle, Philipp, Sancho
Both teams will be looking to bounce back strongly after suffering defeats last week, but Dortmund’s injury woes may prove to be their undoing.
The absence of their usual centre-back pairing is pivotal and Hoffenheim will be looking to exploit a very compromised back line.
Dortmund have proved that they can score goals despite Michy Batshuayi’s absence but this match could result in a comfortable victory for the hosts.
Prediction: Hoffenheim 3-1 Borussia Dortmund